Facebook's Timeline hasn't been popular with all users, so you have to wonder whether Microsoft's attempts to sequence even more of your life will fare any better.
Microsoft Research is working on new software called Lifebrowser that will use artificial intelligence to build your personal history, compiling whatever information it can find out about you. Apparently, you're in control, with chief scientist Eric Horvitz saying that it's all about "making local machines private data-mining centres, so they can dig about you and work for you as your memory aid".
The process requires no user intervention. It will sift through photos, emails, calendars, search and browse histories and other documents to create points in your timeline. For example, significant events — or memory landmarks, as Horvtiz calls them — could be highlighted by a lot of photos taken at a particular location with a lot of different people.
You'll also be able to search for data. Many of us hang on to emails and search to find people or attached documents; now, when you find that email, you can see photos and other associated content, and get a clear idea of what was going on in your life at the time.
The inspiration didn't really come from Facebook; the project kicked off well before the release of Timeline. Would Microsoft have been so keen to pursue the idea if it had experienced the backlash from Facebook users? Well, perhaps. After all, the Facebook group "10 Million Against Timeline" so far only has 1300 likes. Perhaps we do want our lives chronologically sorted by machine, after all. That way, we'll have all that information right at our fingertips when we finally lose our minds. Now what was that password?